On Saturday, 27 February 2021, after conducting a pre-week engagement to gauge challenges facing the Mix Informal Settlement youth, the #BeFree Movement hosted its Battle of the Sexes event at the Settlement located 20 kilometres north of Windhoek.
An interactive youth empowerment dialogue, the #BeFree Movement's Battle of the Sexes initiative focuses on understanding how issues of gender inequality have an impact on service delivery among Namibian youth. Sponsored by Bank Windhoek and adhering to COVID-19 regulations, the event saw about 50 youth discuss youthful matters.
The event aimed to create a safe platform for youth to have frank open conversations on problematic perceptions about both genders that continues to perpetuate violence and social issues as a result of gender inequality. During the debates, the participants pointed out that the lack of recreation facilities, sexual reproductive services, and educational institutions leads to high teenage pregnancies, unemployment, and substance abuse at the Settlement. “The youth unanimously agreed and fully participated in the dialogues to find solutions to tackle their challenges. One of the key take-outs is that they need to have access to recreational facilities, educational and health services," said the Head of Programmes, Steven Bernardus Harageib.
Established in 2016 by the First Lady of Namibia's (FLON) Office, with the assistance of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the #BeFree Movement was inspired by the UNAIDS drive to promote an AIDS-free generation by 2020 through the Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS-Free initiative.
The #BeFree Movement is also an open-minded, youth-focused dialogue platform that has served as a facilitator of difficult conversations, information sharing, and linking young people to services. “It has reached over 100 thousand Namibian youth across the 14 regions and later took part in international dialogues in the United States and Europe," said Harageib. “We strive to co-create a conducive environment for young people to adopt a healthy lifestyle that will enable them to reach their full potential."
Harageib added that his team would document and share the key learnings from Mix Informal Settlement's engagement on the challenges youth face with the relevant authorities to initiate solutions and possible interventions. “We are glad that it was an insightful and fruitful event," he said.
Bank Windhoek's Head of Corporate Social Investments, Sponsorship, and Events, Bronwyn Moody, wished Harageib and his team all the best. “As a connector of positive change, we are proud to be associated with the #BeFree Movement to combat social challenges faced by our youth."
The next #BeFree dialogue is slated for the coast in April 2021.